Preparing for the NCARB® ARE® Exam

Becoming a licensed architect through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards® is a rigorous process, one that firmly establishes those who complete their certification as being well-prepared for the many challenges of the field. One of the central points of the process is passing the Architecture Registration Exam® (ARE), which is a comprehensive examination that covers a number of essential subject areas.

Once you’ve met the academic and practical requirements necessary to qualify for the exam, the challenge remains to prepare for the exam itself, which features 7 different sections of multiple choice questions and closely evaluated practical exercises in various disciplines. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the 7 areas, and what to expect from each. The NCARB provides detailed descriptions of each section for applicants to review, which have been included in each section.

Architecture Exam Prep – The 7 Content Divisions

Note that the guidelines below are based on the ARE 4.0 examination, with the ARE 5.0 examination to be introduced sometime in late 2016. Check back with the NCARB frequently to make sure you’re studying off of the most up-to-date materials.

Construction Documents & Services

This section focuses the administrative elements of architectural practice, assessing the candidate’s knowledge of building codes, zoning, permits, and accessibility laws – among other logistical points that are fundamental to any building project. Consisting of multiple choice questions and a practical vignette, the section covers adherence to sustainable building best practices (including hazardous materials, air quality, and sustainable design). The division also requires that the student prepare construction drawings through a digital drafting platform and develop contract documents related to site elements to obtain approval in a real-world scenario.

Programming, Planning & Practice

An essential part of the architectural process is determining a project’s requirements based on a complete assessment of a client’s needs, unique site limitations, and other considerations based on scope and budget. This division is designed to test the candidate’s ability to manage that process through multiple choice questions and a practical vignette involving a sample project plan focused on site zoning.

Site Planning & Design

This division focuses on the crucial elements that need to be managed in regard to an actual building site. Similarly to other divisions, the section places a strong emphasis on adherence to code and regulation, but also covers the influence that design decisions have on the building process. Additionally, architecture certification candidates will be tested on their practical knowledge of practice and project management, particularly scheduling, cost estimation, and risk management at the building site. The division also contains two vignettes, one focused on site grading and the other on site design.

Building Design & Construction Systems

Taking a more involved look at how decisions made during the design process influence projects, this division tests the candidate’s ability to use the right material to suit a project’s scale, requirements, and budget. The section focuses on a variety of different materials and how they’re used in close detail, with questions on masonry, metals, wood, concrete, specialty materials, and others. This division consists of multiple choice questions and 3 vignettes: designs for an accessibility ramp, stairs, and a roof plan.

Structural Systems

In this section, the candidate will be tested on their ability to apply general structural principles to building design and construction and select components that suit a situation’s needs that stay within budget. They’ll also be assessed on their knowledge of various forces that can act against a structure, including seismic, wind, and lateral forces, and their practical understanding of how to account for those forces. The division includes multiple choice questions and a practical vignette focusing on structural layout.

Building Systems

The Building Systems division delves into the various facets of building infrastructure that form the backbone of a project. These include: plumbing, HVAC, electricity, lighting, and other specialty systems necessary to suit a project’s requirements. Candidates will be required to complete multiple choice questions and a practical vignette in which they complete a sample mechanical and electrical plan.

Schematic Design

Consisting of only two practical vignettes in interior and building layout with no multiple choice component, this division is designed to assess a candidate’s drafting ability given an example situation with certain constraints and challenges.

To fulfill the academic requirement necessary to sit for the exam and develop your skills with a NAAB-accredited program, pursue the Global Master of Architecture offered by LTU.